I write in response to the Letter of the Day published in The Gleaner of June 17, titled ‘Festival song competitors are shafted’ , which contains misinformation and incorrect assumptions.
The Jamaica Festival Song Competition is not, and has never been, restricted to ‘amateurs’, whether as performers, writers or producers.
Our very first winner in 1966, Toots and the Maytals, was a professional group when they entered the competition. Additionally, Eric Donaldson, Tommy Cowan and the Jamaicans, Hopeton Lewis, Bob Marley and Rita Marley were not amateurs when they entered.
The Jamaica Festival Song Competition is about celebrating the best of Jamaica and bringing the nation together. It is about finding that song that we all, as a nation, can sing together as we celebrate our Independence.
The impact and reach of the competition had fallen over the years, but we have worked hard to revitalise it. Over the last three years, we have witnessed renewed interest in the competition, demonstrated by the increase in number and quality of entries; and increased patronage of our events.
This year, we have 10 excellent finalists that each have a very good chance of victory. Each was selected by judges who listened to more than 150 recordings in a fair process in which the identity of the performer, writer or producer was not revealed.
Each entrant had the option to submit his/her/their entry on audio CD or come to one of three auditions, which we instituted for the first time this year, where they would be recorded for submission to the judges.
We are doing the final touches to the top 10 recordings and will be releasing the recordings to the media, which we continue to rely on in a special way to bring the entries to the public, especially since there are no roadshows this year. We will also post the songs on social media as we invite the public to help us to select the Jamaica Festival Song for 2020.
Jamaica Festival Song Committee